LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Monday marked the beginning of the 2021 legislative session in Carson City under very different conditions than the 2019 session as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread through Nevada.
The Capitol building will not be open to the public. Only lawmakers and staff will be allowed into the building at the beginning of the session.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said the safety measures in place have affected every corner of the building.
"I am confident that everyone can stay safe," he said.
Masks have been required at all times, there will be no in-person committee meetings, and Plexiglas dividers have been installed in both chambers between members.
Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said the changes have been taxing ahead of the session's start.
"We had to implement a system that would allow us to conduct our business, while also being accessible to the public," she said. "And there are always bumps and bruises along the way with that."
Cannizzaro said the 2020 special legislative session called to address coronavirus emergencies was a good dry run for the coming full 120 day session.
She said she hopes as vaccines become more available to lawmakers, staff, and the public the Capitol building can be opened during this session.
Frierson agreed but said it shouldn't be opened before it's safe.
"We took measures in special session, and our numbers are worse now so it wouldn't make sense to go backward with respect to those measures," he said.
Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer and Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus said they were less intimidated by the coronavirus.
Settelmeyer called for the building to be reopened at the beginning of the session at current capacity limits for other businesses.
"The constitution dictates that building has to be open for the session," Settelmeyer said. "And we weren't in the special session. That building should be open to the same rules and requirements as society is."
Titus didn't say the building should be open at the beginning of the session but said she was looking forward to the day lawmakers could be among their constituents again.
"As we get this vaccine, hopefully, the numbers drop, then we can start opening up to both the public and to lobbyists," Titus said.
People can still submit public comments and view the legislative session through the Nevada Legislature website.
Monday, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak also issued the following statement as lawmakers convene in Carson City for the start of the 81st legislative session:
“The budget I recently presented reflects the emergency we are currently in. There’s nothing traditional or customary about fighting through and emerging from a global pandemic, catastrophic personal and financial consequences, business shutdowns, and what continues to be unknown territory. But as I said in my State of the State address, we are forging a new path forward. Nevada is and always will be determined, resilient, and strong.
I look forward to a strong partnership with the Legislature during this session – including returning and new members. We are still in the midst of this pandemic and subsequent crises that have been created. There is no doubt this past year has looked different, and our path forward will look different too, including the 81st Legislative Session. To meet this historic moment, we must commit to work together and focus on legislation that creates jobs, provides immediate assistance and long-term recovery, and improves outcomes for all Nevadans.
As I said in my State of the State, Nevadans have always shown grit in the face of adversity, and I’m confident we’ll recover from this crisis. The resilience of Nevadans should never be doubted.”